The Mellon Just Futures Initiative

Call for Proposals

Expression of Interest Due: August 28, 2020
Proposal Deadline: September 17, 2020


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The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation invites proposals from multi-disciplinary teams that include scholars from the humanities, arts, and humanities-inflected social sciences for the Mellon Just Futures Initiative competition. The program will provide funding to support visionary, unconventional, experimental, and groundbreaking projects in order to address the long-existing fault lines of racism, inequality, and injustice that tear at the fabric of democracy and civil society. This call for proposals seeks to support teams whose work focuses specifically on and addresses racial inequality and its many manifestations. This competition is overseen by the Foundation’s Higher Learning program.

Grants of up to $5 million with a 2-3 year duration will be awarded to multi-disciplinary collaboratories with the intention of generating innovative research, projects, pedagogies, and curricula. The Foundation also encourages the formation of multi-institutional teams that may include partners from across the sectors of higher education and from outside the academy.

The Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) is coordinating proposals from the University of Minnesota for this new Mellon Just Futures Initiative. There is no limit on the number of proposals that the University can submit, but they must meet the guidelines laid out by the Mellon Foundation; that is, they must involve multidisciplinary teams “whose work focuses specifically on and addresses racial inequality and its many manifestations.” The internal deadline for completed proposals is September 17. The IAS must submit all proposals to Mellon by noon on September 23.

The full Call for Proposals can be found here.

Expression of Interest

If you are interested in submitting a proposal to The Mellon Just Futures Initiative, an Expression of Interest is required. Please send an email with a very short description of your work and probable partners to [email protected] as soon as possible (and no later than August 28). If you are interested but need help finding partners, are interested in participating in another proposal, or would like to brainstorm your ideas with someone, please indicate that as well.

Teams will be advised of the proposal submission process directly.

About the Grant Program

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the globe, it continues to lay bare deep inequities and vulnerabilities that have disproportionately impacted communities of color. It is simultaneously generating significant shifts across established institutions and known structures and systems. The humanities, arts, and qualitative social sciences have an essential role to play in re-envisioning and communicating what the future will look like by helping us understand the past, make meaning of the present, and analyze the conditions required for socially just futures. We encourage teams that think historically to understand the present as being in constant conversation with the past.

The Mellon Foundation’s Higher Learning program is particularly focused on:

  • Improving equitable and broad access to higher education;
  • Supporting humanities education that builds and centers more complete and accurate narratives to construct a fuller account of the human experience;
  • Accelerating demographic transformation in the academy;
  • Elevating bold ideas and new knowledge that support the generation of just societies.

This open call thus seeks visionary proposals that begin with expertise based in the humanities and utilize a multi-disciplinary approach to addressing racial justice in ways that are in keeping with the Higher Learning program’s above-listed foci, asking questions such as (but not limited to):

  • What might we learn from the study of past periods of crisis and disruption, and how might those lessons lead us to cultural and social transformation in the present?
  • What are the future possibilities for structures that elevate, make visible, liberate, and help individuals and communities to thrive?
  • How might the humanities and higher education more generally be productively transformed to achieve greater and more equitable access, demographic transformation, and to support new ways of knowing and new modes of knowledge production? And how might those transformations be linked to the generation of a more just and equitable society?

This call for proposals is predicated on the Foundation’s belief that the voices of historians of all subjects, writers, linguists, philosophers, scholars of literature, of languages and cultures, of religion and of communication, of race and ethnic studies, of gender and sexuality, as well as artists, anthropologists, cultural and human geographers, political theorists and sociologists (to name just a few) are absolutely essential to the societal and cultural transformation we so clearly require. Simultaneously, the call is rooted in a belief that the full depth and complexity of humanities-based inquiry can be put towards the search for solutions to current societal problems, even if the research discoveries themselves are not immediately transactional. This program thus aims to support fundamental and applied humanities exploration, in a manner that requires new forms of intellectual partnerships that are based in deeply reciprocal modes of collaboration, with the goal of shaping the future through the generation of bold new perspectives and imaginatively developed new knowledge.

Multi-disciplinary teams are encouraged to think capaciously and inclusively about their structure, using—but not limited to—the following guidelines. Teams:

  • must include a coordinator to ensure strong collaboration. The coordinator’s time should accordingly be accounted for in the budget. The coordinator may also be (but is not necessarily) the PI;
  • are encouraged to include partners from a range of colleges and universities across sectors;
  • may include artists and scholars who are without an institutional affiliation;
  • may include artists-in-residence, community scholars-in-residence, activists-in-residence, or Elders-in-residence;
  • may include partners from non-profits and community-based organizations;
  • must include undergraduate and/or graduate students;
  • may include no more than two post-doctoral fellows.

Please review the full Call for Proposals for additional information.


Please contact [email protected]